Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Surviving the Idealism Pit

How have I been?

Much has happened since I came here at PTSI. I was the girl who took the front stage dancing to the tune of a chipmunk-ified Jingle Bells just two days into work -- and the same girl who took home the grand prize during the Christmas party.

But the New Year brought harder challenges. The party was over, and we are back to the work that I never knew. For the longest time, my teammates and I were silent to the point of hostility. I never understood why they never reached out -- why they gather to the corner to whisper and rant about their lives while I try to preserve my sanity and idealism huddled in front of my computer. All the while conversing with the slow-replying boss who wanted to see change but, for some reason, did not want to see me.

Yes, I had my share of confronting the only girl in my division who is about my age. Four years gap. Caught chatting with a certain guy convincing him that I volunteered to do the report to get credits. My mind battled if I, the newbie, should confront or not. I chose fight over flight in a gentle manner.

Two weeks later, she was emailing me with "Keep it up!" and is comfortably sharing with me as I do to her. I also no longer eat alone like I used to, thanks to my own girl group who practically scooped me up from corporate isolation and into their warm club.

I used to question myself if I was meant to be here. I would like to believe God clearly pointed it out to me that I was. I turned down an offer of 31K at the government agency I have always dreamt of joining for the sake of being a fundraiser in a 104-year-old NGO who still uses outdated methods such as fundraising and seal-selling.

I do not have a Messianic complex whatsoever in thinking I will "be the change" in this institution. I probably will be like most employees and will come out of it just another name and will be replaced. But I'm taking my place in the meantime. There is work to do that I will do. There are things to accomplish that I will. And doing so, I hope to make a difference.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dove Yourself

And so, after seven months. I am back. :)

I don't exactly know what happened. But I hadn't planned on resurrecting this blog until tonight. I guess I just miss ranting through my fingers tapping on the keyboard.

Just wanna share with you something that happened today. I had a ~*Dove moment*~ or something.

I went to the mall today to do some window shopping. It's complicated. But you see I think I will be participating in a bazaar so I wanted to know what's out there. Also I am to look for a gown for a wedding in December. So I ventured out.

Black college jacket on. Bare face. Slippers. Old ill-fitting tank top. Usual (messy) hair.

At the same time, I was also feeling the pressure with handling a beauty brand (Flaired( by myself. Seems like nobody could understand how it feels, but I felt alone. That feeling you feel when you're a soloist and you see your choirmates backstage and you freeze, hoping to tell them to come there on the spotlight with you, but no, you're on your own -kind of alone.

Add to that, it was a beauty brand. And I couldn't really claim that I am a beauty kind of person. I've been known since grade school as the girl who never combs her hair (L I E S. or not). And the clothes I'm most comfortable in really are houseclothes and slippers. In short, I don't really put much effort. Which is the problem. Truth is, beauty (at least in a capitalist sense) takes effort. Takes time. And there is this feeling that selling beauty should also mean that I should be beautiful (in that sense). And, well, I don't admit insecurities (did I just...) I just don't think I am like that.

Now if you're feeling like that, then it's really not a good choice to window shop. But I did! And on the sea of people in their best outfits and me the plain houseclothes Jane -- as I was trying out gowns and I look at myself in the mirror and as a hundred crunches and crash diets crossed my mind -- I just felt off. I'll say it: ugly!

And so I was a bit depressed. Maybe it's just hormones and the emotional instability that come with it. But I do felt awful. I suddenly hated every full length mirror at Landmark. Haha.

And only now, I realize that that should not be the beauty that I should sell. Truth is, I feel pressure because my best competitor is a celebrity and of course her clients are even more beautiful celebrities. It felt like I should fit in to their world of glitz and glamour in order to succeed. In order to be a "beauty brand". That I had to learn makeup and do my hair (well, partly true). That I had to be at my best all the time, in public and preferrably also in private. And I just felt like I'm not that kind of person, so I doubted if I can still do this.

In my quiet time tonight, in tears of pressure, alone-ness in business, and the sense of (physical and experience-wise) inadequacy, that's what I asked God. "Can I really do this like you say I can?" over and over and over.

Earlier this morning, earlier these months and weeks, I had no doubt I could do it. I had planned my steps, followed deadlines, and have done my best. But one moment caught off-guard -- one moment of comparison and dissatisfaction  -- and I already question everything. It wasn't even about skills. It was about self-perception. And so, even though I am mostly an anything-goes kind of person, I just realized how a lot of people can forget who they are by a moment's insecurity.

By the time I was home, and after that weird quiet time, I looked at myself again in the bathroom mirror and I thought, hey I'm not that bad (AHAHA). Was it with the mall lights? Was it with the perfect figured mannequins or the perfectly made up mall goers? I'm not sure. But I do know that for a moment, something was robbed in me. That is, the idea that I am beautiful. And enough. And capable. And loved -- regardless, in spite of, without question.

Thank you Lord.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Thank You for your faithfulness

God is faithful. Reading thru the Old Testament, of generations after generations of disobedience, triumph, and grace, God remains faithful.

In my own life, that is how he has been. All I could say in the start was, "I no longer want an on and off relationship with Him". Because that's how it was. I only feel him during retreats, but after three days of those retreats, I am back to my sinfulness and I no longer could trust my heart to sustain that kind of relationship with Him. I simply can't seem to commit.

My view of God reflected that of the world. I welcomed the idea of divorce, believed that nothing could last forever, and every good thing will hopelessly change. But knowing how faithful God is to me until now -- almost four years of being on a vibrant journey with him -- I know that such commitment is possible because He makes it possible. He made me believe those good things that were promised to me but I have denied before. When I relied on my own commitment to God, I fail and get frustrated. But being aware of his faithfulness and his pursuit of me, I am more confident that it will work.

Thanks, Lord. To eternity. May your faithfulness revive the next generation.

Monday, April 8, 2013


To the person who presented five Post-its on that fateful day at the Palma Hall
To my sisters, the ladies who taught me how to beso, wear dresses, and actually watch chick flicks
To my brothers. the gentlemen, who encouraged me to play football, Ultimate, and the guitar
To the old Thursday that actually believed that I lead a church in worship, let alone sing, and continued believing during the difficult times
To Aniday that helped me undergo the terrifying process of job interviews and employment
To the adventure buddies who ran from zombies, climbed walls, did crazy exhibitions at swimming pools
To the leaders who fought for, established, and protected its members
To the youngsters who challenged me to be an "Ate", a role model who would look out for them
To my Ate's and Kuya's who patiently bore with my immaturity and saw who I could be beyond it
To my second family that assured me of an eternal friendship and a lifetime journey towards delighting in God.

Thank you.
I celebrate every day because of you. :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Stumbling Blocks

I thought I knew how to love. I thought I could rationalize every problem and find a solution easily. Until God showed how ugly my heart could be.

It was so irrational, so mundane, so shallow. And yet I could not get over it. I could not love this person who obviously needs more of it. Her need for love irritates me. Even the kind words she say make me suspicious. I can't even put my finger on it.

Coming here, God and I were really strong. I thanked him for sustaining me in such a strange land. He has given me a lot of things I could not even thank for. We were strong. We were inseparable. I thought to myself that nothing could get between us. Until now.

The struggle of my heart to love this person causes me to forget God too. Like I want to be with Him and yet I refuse or am too lazy to move this roadblock of a person. Today I remember God's word before I boarded the plane. "You're on a mission". And it's really just funny that it wasn't as heroic as I expected. Working for the blind has its pitfalls of pride. Like you want to look like some sacrificing hero.

God, in his wisdom, put this person who isn't even blind and isn't even the one I'm serving, to test my capacity to love, to humble myself, and to repent. I am dumbfounded as I realize how a little thing could be so much of a challenge. Like I'm a runner who at first wanted to finish, but my co-runner is the one distracting me and causing me to trip. I have to remember that it's not about co-runners, but most importantly the race.

This is really difficult and I don't want to be away from God. I can't pretend to be close to him while denying this person of the love God called me to give.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Day with Mr. Stephen / Laundry Lessons

Today I had my first real work, which really isn't work: reception. Answering calls, entertaining visitors, etc. Quite boring. But I spent the day talking to an interesting person, Mr. Stephen. He's blind, and he answers the calls, pages announcements, and connects callers. I hate answering calls even at my real job. It just opens you to different kind of people -- including rude, hurrying, and demanding ones. But he was just so patient. He keeps the same tone of voice, "Good Morning, Saint Nicholas Home", which interrupts our conversation often.

We had a lot of things to talk about -- almost everything under the sun -- mostly about the Philippines and Malaysia. The food, the games, the animals, the language. It was really fun. The same goes with other blind people in the home. To be honest, I am tempted to be really careful with them. Like I don't want to ask them how long they've been here, when they became blind, what's their (psh) favorite TV show/color/sights in Malaysia, etc. I mostly stuck to music and food. Also, I have to control my little pity party. It's really hard seeing them walking without seeing anything. It reminds me of the novel I read "Blindness" by Jose Saramago (one of the coolest ones, about a contagious blindness and quarantining them in one building!). But I am trying to change my perspective -- they are not helpless people, but they actually can do many things despite their disability. It was really fun talking to them and I would love to talk more!

Then, my roommate had an explosion. Amanda is a really nice girl, but things easily set her back. Today it was the laundry because she badly needed to wash her clothes, but office hours end at 5pm (coinciding with our end of work) so she wasn't able to do it. And she was so upset she cried to the laundry lady, so that the lady had to open the laundry room. Then at the laundry room, she was still so upset that when the detergent packaging broke and fell to the floor, she threw it in the air and walked out (almost getting detergent on my hair, no). Honestly, I did not pity her at all. Even when she was crying, I couldn't bring myself to comfort her.

A few minutes after that, I called her to have dinner, and it was a struggle choosing to talk to her. I was ignoring her for a while. Until we came upstairs and I told her everything. "Amanda, I think you really have to apologize to Mme. Salachi and Natasha. They were just doing their jobs and yet the adjusted for you and cleaned up after you. You really have to adjust even if things don't go your way. If somebody asked you to stay beyond 5PM for their own sake, how would you feel? If you had to clean up someone else's mess, how would you feel?" And it was a bit of a battle. She was crying, angry, and telling me that maybe I think she's a bad person. But in the end, I was able to persuade her to apologize. She went out the room and looked for the women she might've offended. Great!

And we talked a bit more. It was hard seeing her cry, and she confided that she really feels like everything's a mess, she don't wanna be here, and she's insecure. I told her to go back to the Bible. To pray and seek God. And I meant it. You are only insecure because you are trying to do it yourself and you're not trusting God's sovereignty over circumstance. I urged her to pour it out to God in prayer and reading, and offered that I play worship songs after we go out to buy chocolates (her comfort food) and so we did.

It's amazing. I haven't been so outspoken before hahaha. I'm so glad that God is really sustaining me in my stay here. I mean, I could have been easily discouraged by a crying roommate or working with the blind but I find my encouragement here. Most of the time, it doesn't feel like that really. Going here isn't all fancy-fancy. But there is meaning to it. I hope I make a difference even to the few people I will meet for a short while.

Monday, April 1, 2013

New Home

Today Chienyen and her manager picked me up from the boarding house to drop me off at Saint Nicholas, where my work is. It was a few minutes ride on the other side of the island and in no time I was there. I was wearing a skirt that was appropriate (long, I mean) but Chienyen whispered to me that I should always wear pants because conservative women might look at me awkwardly. I brushed it off, of course. (The other day she asked me to try to pretend to be Malaysian, because the recent conflict with my country might invite abuse, to which I thought, No).

I know there is such thing as cultural sensitivity, but this isn't right. I don’t look at fully-covered women with condemnation, so I don’t think the way I dress should merit excessive look from anybody. To me, dress codes are a way of perpetuating the “judging the book by the cover”, among objectifying the person by letting the appearance be the basis of the character. Society has a way of telling us to present ourselves in a manner acceptable for people who are also trying to present themselves as acceptable. Who are we trying to please anyway? (k, sarreh)

I met my roommate Amanda, and everybody calls me Samantha so it fits that we are roommates I guess (the sound? You get it?). She’s from the Netherlands and really nice. Later at dinner she treated me and an Indian colleague Natasha to ice cream. Who wouldn't love anyone who would treat you to ice cream? Haha. I'm so lucky to have great roommates :)

During lunch time they called in the March and April birthday celebrants, and wouldn’t you know, I get to blow one last candle, and in Malaysia! It was a bit like school at the lunch table because our co-interns who are about to leave keep speaking in Chinese, somehow leaving us out haha. I'm going to make it a point to sit with different people.

Amanda then calls me to our room and to my surprise she started crying, confiding to me how hard it was to finish her research paper and that she is so afraid of failing. So I told her I’ll help her out. Anyway I am fond of research papers (wow rly) and the topic was good (CSR integration and online fund raising!).

I took a tour around the home, and here is what I’m confiding to you. At first (and maybe until now) it’s a bit traumatic for me. I haven’t been close to the visually impaired until now. The first time I saw a blind person walking across the corridor, I was surprised and saddened. They can’t see me, of course. But I wondered how many more have to live in such state with nobody to take care of them. There’s that feeling of helplessness, that I can’t do anything to them, which was the case when I saw a friend get sick. You feel for the person, but you can’t really “feel” what they feel and you can’t do anything about it.

Danny, the executive director that we got to chat with at lunch, said that at least 1% of the population are blind, and 10% considered visually impaired. It must be a lot worse in the Philippines where the population is bigger and I don’t really know if we have homes for the blind. It’s really a sad and paralyzing fact for me, but maybe that’s why I’m here and the 6 weeks will help me understand more and help me figure out what I can do to help.